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Metalformers sense irregular growth

Keywords: Tags  metal stampers, metalformers, Steve Peplin, Talan Products, Gretchen Zierick, Zierick Manufacturing, Robert Hurst, Phoenix Specialty Manufacturing supply chain

CHICAGO — Many precision metal stampers, roll formers and fabricators are capitalizing on pockets of strength in the industrial economy and searching for new growth opportunities as they gaze into 2014.

"We beefed up our sales staff, so we are getting a lot of new work. We do some automotive and that’s doing well. We do a lot of utility scale solar (energy systems), and it’s the fastest-growing segment for us," Steve Peplin, chief executive officer of Cleveland-based Talan Products Inc., told AMM. "It’s an erratic but demanding market."

Gretchen Zierick, president of Mount Kisco, N.Y.-based Zierick Manufacturing Corp., agreed that inconsistency prevails. "We are seeing a mixture. Orders are all over the place—two good days, three bad days," she said.

"Our biggest customers are contract manufacturers—building systems for everybody," Zierick said, so it is difficult to determine where each batch of copper parts the company produces goes. However, "lighting is going strong. All the (light-emitting diode) lighting manufacturers are buying our parts."

Applications range from tail lights to display cases to street lights. "We have a relatively new product and we cannot keep up with demand," she said.

Although a slowly rising housing market has created some pull for appliances, the falling cost of energy means fewer consumers are replacing units with more energy-efficient models.

She expects customer orders will rise between 1 and 3 percent in the first quarter compared with a year earlier.

"That is going well and will continue to grow next year. I don’t have an order backlog that guarantees a better year, but we are optimistic due to 2013 business activity," according to Robert Hurst, president of Bamberg, S.C.-based Phoenix Specialty Manufacturing Co., which serves commercial aerospace parts manufacturers.

Like the others, he said order rates in the industry are irregular. "The days of getting releases out two to three months in advance are gone. We are all expected to respond to any pattern whatsoever. I see customers grind to a halt, and two months later pick right back up," he said.

The modus operandi among consuming industries might have changed, metalformers said, but they are adapting quickly.

Reshoring, while an overall benefit to U.S. manufacturers and their domestic supply base, has raised some cost challenges in the year ahead (, Dec. 24).

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